Quartering the Militia at Baltimore, September 1814

On August 19, 1814 when the British expeditionary forces landed at Benedict, Maryland General Orders were sent out by Major General Samuel Smith and consequently to those neighboring states of Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania to come to Washington and Baltimore’s defense. With the capture of Washington on August 24, it became apparent the next tarket was Baltimore, thus many of the arriving militia halted at Baltimore and camps were established within a ten mile radius of the city. In Baltimore it soon became a logistical problem to find quarters for the militia, including those from outlying Maryland counties. Major Paul Bentalouu, Quartermaster General stated that “fifteen thousand have assembled and many more are coming in daily.”  

The Third Division Quartermaster of Baltimore Major Jeremiah Sullivan, obtained the shelter of  numerous ropewalks whose protective sheds, some 1,000 feet long could accomodate 500 troops  each. Every available building including fifty-one storied warehouses and dwellings were utilized along the docks, even within the unfinished granite walls of the catholic cathedral rising up on Howard’s Hill (now the Basilica of the Assumption). Here are a few examples: 60th Virginia Regiment – Hadsgis Ropewalk; 56th Virginia Regiment – Piper’s Ropewalk; Pennsylvania Militia – Oliver’s Ropewalk; companies of the 36th, 38th and 14th U.S. Infantry were in tents on Hampstead Hill.

In addition the troops needed food, canteens, knapsacks, cooking kettles, musket cartridges all had to be procured locally. Many companies, some independently arriving from as faraway as Hagerstown, MD., Hanover, PA., and Wilmington, DE., were without muskets or adequte equipage. Within weeks after the Battle for Baltimore, militia companies continued to arrive who had to be accomodated. Such was the scene in Baltimore during the perilous days of September 1814. 

Sources: Samuel Smith Papers, Library of Congress, MSS18794, Reel 4, Cont. 5-6.




Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 12:59 am  Comments Off on Quartering the Militia at Baltimore, September 1814  

Captain Frederick Evans (1766-1844): U.S. Corps of Artillery

”Fell at the feet of Capt. Frederick Evans during the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Sept. 13, 1814.”

The inscription above is enscribed (since worn away) on an unexploded 13-inch British mortar shell that was taken home by Captain Frederick Evans soon after the bombardment of Fort McHenry, Sept. 13-14, 1814. Though Lt. Colonel George Armistead was the commanding officer, his second was Captain Evans of the U.S. Corps of Artillery.

Frederick Evans was born near Trappe, northwest of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on March 30, 1766 to George and Elizabeth Evans. In June 1792 at the age of twenty-eight, he served as a lieutenant colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment of the Northumberland County militia. Like his father, Frederick was a surveyor by trade and elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature from 1809-1811.

With the outbreak of war he received a commission as a captain in the 2nd U.S. Artillery on July 6, 1812 and ordered in May 1814 to Fort McHenry. During the bombardment the corps were stationed within the Star Fort along with a company of U.S. Volunteers. He was honorably discharged on June 15, 1815 and returned to his home in Thompsontown, Pa.

Captain Evans died on December 1, 1844 and was buried in the Old Creamer Hoimestead Cemetery on the Susquehanna RIver in Thompsontown. The bomb shell remained in the family’s lumber saw mill until 1937 when it was donated to the National Park Service at Fort McHenry for exhibit.

Sources: Dunlap’s American Daily Adv., (Pennsylvania) November 19, 1794; Philadedelphia Gazettte, July 1, 1797;  The Story of Snyder County by George F. Dunkelberger (Baltimore: Gateway Press, 1997); History of Thompsontown and Delaware Township (Thompsontown Committee, 1977).

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm  Comments Off on Captain Frederick Evans (1766-1844): U.S. Corps of Artillery  

Negro Frederick, alias William Williams, 38th U.S. Infantry at Fort McHenry, Sept. 1814

“FORTY DOLLARS REWARD – For apprehending and securing in jail so that I get him again, NEGRO FREDERICK; Sometimes calls himself FREDERICK HALL a bright mulatto; straight and well made; 21 years old; 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, with a short chub nose and so fair as to show freckles, he has no scars or marks of any kind that is recollected; his clothing when he left home, two months sine, was home made cotton shirts, jacket and Pantaloons of cotton, and yarn twilled, all white. It is probable he may be in Baltimore, having  relation there, a house servant to a Mr. Williams, by the name of Frank who is also a mulatto, but not so fair as Frederick. BENJAMIN ODEN, Prince George’s County, May 12th, 1814.”

In the Spring of 1814 the slave Frederick Hall ran away from his owner Benjamin Oden (1762-1836) of Prince George’s County. On April 14, Frederick, alias William Williams was enlisted as a private in the 38th U.S. Infantry by an Ensign Martin. Federal law however prohibited the enlistment of slaves because they “could make no valid contract with the government.”

It seems the officer who enlisted Williams made no inquiries, nevertheless Williams received his bounty of $50 and was paid a private’s wage of $8 per month.  In September the 38th U.S. Infantry were ordered to Baltimore to Fort McHenry, taking part in its defense, within the dry ditch surrounding the Star Fort with 600 other U.S. Infantry soldiers. Records at the National Archives reveal that Williams was “severely wounded, having his leg blown off by a cannon ball.” He was taken to the garrison hospital at Fort McHenry where he died.. His final resting place remains unknown.

After the war in 1833-34 Mr. Oden petitioned the government for Williams land bounty, but since Williams was a slave, and “therefore, inasmuch as a slave cannot possess or acquire title to real estate by the laws of the land, in his own right, no right can be set up by the master as his representative.” Mr. Oden’s claim was therefore dismissed.

Sources: Baltimore American and Commercial Daily Adv., May 18, 1814; “On Claim To A Bounty Land Warrant for the Military Services of a Slave by His Owner,” American State Papers, Volume 6, Public Lands, No. 1223, 23rd Congress, 1st Session. April 7, 1834, p. 644, 969; Oden Papers, 1755-1836, MS. 178, Maryland Historical Society.

Published in: on April 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm  Comments Off on Negro Frederick, alias William Williams, 38th U.S. Infantry at Fort McHenry, Sept. 1814  

African-Americans: Citizen-Soldiers of Maryland

“I have yet to learn that the color of the skin, or cut and trimmings of the coat can effect a man’s qualifications…many of them are amongst my best men”. Commodore Isaac Chauncey on the Great Lakes frontier, 1813.

Private William Williams, 36th U.S. Infantry (National Park Service)

One of the least known aspects of the war on the Chesapeake has been the role of Maryland African-Americans. Renewed interest in the varied military, maritime and civilian roles of Maryland’s free men and slaves are now being rediscovered. The Federal and Baltimore Daily Advertiser in 1812 reported Baltimore’s African-Americans represented one fifth of the city’s 50,000 population which were “of native and West Indian blacks, nearly one half of whom are free and entitled to hold property…”

England abolished the slave trade in 1807, the United States responded a year later prohibiting slave importation into the United States. In Maryland, a large percentage of African-Americans were freemen. By law, African-Americans could not vote nor bear arms, but documents prove otherwise and reveal a broader context in the roles of the naval and military experience whether as free men or slaves. From their peculiar inherited situation they would seek their own roads to freedom, placing themselves in a decision crossroads – between servitude and freedom. In 1814 the British offered slaves an apportunity to join the Corps of Colonial Marines. It is unknown the extact number that responded by running away from their masters. In March 1813, Congress passed “An act for the Regulation of Seamen on board the public and private vessels of the United States” allowing “persons of color” to enlist.

A member of the Committeee of Vigilance and Safety, merchant William Lowery stated that “Many peoples among us assert that the Free people of Colour may be safely employed in the plans of defense as many of them it is said are processed of property and about all are zeaous in their wish to preserve our City.”

Here are a few of the African- Marylanders who illustrate their role in the War of 1812 on the Chesapeake.

William Williams (alias Frederick Hall), a runaway mulatto slave from Prince George’s county served as a private in the 38th U.S. Infantry at Fort McHenry in Sept. 1814.

George R. Roberts (1766-1861), served onboard Captain Thomas Boyle’s privateer Chasseur (‘pride of Baltimore’) during their famous blockade of England in August 1814. Captain Boyle noted that Roberts “displayed the most intrepid courage and daring” and later was “highly thought of by the citizen-soldiery” of Baltimore.

Perry Sullivan and Henry James, served onboard the privateer Tartar.

Cyrus Warren a native of Kent County served onboard U.S. Gun Boat No. 139 at Baltimore.

George Anderson, Solomon Johnson, Elisha Rhody, Jack Murray all served in the Fell’s Point shipyards as naval mechanics. Murray (1751-1861) became one of the celebrated Old Defenders’ of Baltimore.

Charles Ball chronicled his life in an autobiography A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball. A Black Man who fought at the Battles of St. Leonard’s Creek, Bladensburg and Baltimore with the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla.

Gabriel Roulson and Caesar Wentworth, served respectfully as a landsman and cook in the U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla in 1814.

Colonial Corps of Marines – While others served in the American forces, others choose freedom, escaping from ther masters seeking the protection and guidance of the Royal Navy. Organized in the Spring of 1813, they fought in the Bladensburg-Baltimore campaigns in 1814.

African-Americans played a significant role in Maryland during the War of 1812. Freemen volunteered and served shoulder to shoulder with other Americans on land and sea. The extent of their contributions are still to be found, but Marylanders can take pride in the contribution of these “men of color” who fought and worked alongside others, friends and owners to help save Baltimore and their native state during the War of 1812.

Sources: Slavery in the United States: A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Charles Ball. A Black Man (Lewistown, Pa. 1836); Amongst my best men: African-Americans and The War of 1812 by Gerald T. Altoff (Ohio: The Perry Group, 1996); Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., May 18, 1814; Military Collector & Historian, vol. 41, No.1, (Journal, The Company of Military Historians, Spring, 1989; Baltimore American & Commercial Daily Adv., May 25, 1814; George Cockburn Papers, Library of Congress. Baltimore City Archives, RG 22. War of 1812 Collection.

Published in: on March 31, 2011 at 9:00 pm  Comments Off on African-Americans: Citizen-Soldiers of Maryland  

Defenders of Fort McHenry, September 13-14, 1814

“…O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand / Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolution!  / Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land / Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!…” Francis Scott Key, 1814.

With the arrival of the British expeditionary forces landing at Benedict, Maryland on August 19, 1814, Major General Samuel Smith and Major George Armistead, commanding Fort McHenry  began to assemble those militia and federal forces for the defense of Fort McHenry. The following are those companies and officers that defended Fort McHenry during the bombardment of September 13-14, 1814.

U.S. Garrison of Fort McHenry

Capt. Frederick Evans – U.S. Corps of Artillery (60)

Capt. Matthew S. Bunbury, U.S. Sea Fencibles (60)

Capt. William H. Addison, U.S. Sea Fencibles (50)

 Maryland Militia, 1st Regiment of Artillery

Capt. John Berry, Washington Artillery, (100)

Lt. Commander Charles Pennington, Baltimore Independent Artillery (75).

U.S. Volunteers

Capt. Joseph H. Nicholson, Baltimore Fencibles, U.S. Volunteers (75)

U.S. Infantry

Lt. Colonel William Steuart, 38th U.S. Infantry

Capt. Joseph Hook, 36th U.S. Infantry (125)

Capt. William Rogers, 36th U.S. Infantry (130)

Capt. Sheppard Church Leakin, 38th U.S.Infantry (?)

Capt. Joseph H. Hook, 38th U.S. Infantry (100)

Capt. John Buck, 38th U.S. Infantry (100)

Capt. Thomas Sangsten, 14th U.S. Infantry (100)


U.S. Chesapeake Flotilla

Sailing Master Solomon Rodman, (60)

Total: 1035

Sources: “Report of Fort McHenry, September 13 & 14, 1814 in the Bombardment” Captain Thomas Sangsten, February 22, 1815; Major Armistead to Acting Secretary of War, James Monroe, September 24, 1814. “Letters Received, Secretary of War John Armstrong,” September 24, 1814.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm  Comments Off on Defenders of Fort McHenry, September 13-14, 1814  

Brig. General Leonard Covington (1768-1813)

Leonard Covington

Leonard Covington

Leonard Covington, the son of Levin and Susannah (Maguder) Covington was born in Aquasco, Prince George’s County, Md., on October 30, 1768. At 24 years of age he entered the U. S. Army as a cavalry cornet (Mar. 14, 1792); a lieutenant of U.S. Dragoons in 1793, joining the army under General Wayne during the Battle of Fallen Timbersand subsequently promoted to a captaincy. On Sept. 12, 1795 he resigned and returned to Maryland engaging in agricultural pursuits; a Maryland Delegate (1802, 1807-09): U.S. House of Representatives (1805-1807). In January 1809 he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Light Dragoons; colonel February 1809 serving at various stations (Baton Rouge, West Florida, 1810) and Fort Adams on the Mississippi (1810) until he was ordered to the Canadian frontier and appointed brigadier general on August 1, 1813.

In 1796 he married his second wife Rebecca Mackall of Calvert County and issued five children. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Chryslers Field, Upper Canada on November 11, 1813, while animating his men forward in a charge, his last words being “Independence Forever.” He died at French’s Mills, N.Y., on November 14, 1813; his remains were removed to Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, N.Y., August 13, 1820; place of burial now known as Mount Covington.

In early 1814, Fort Patapsco located to the west of Fort McHenry was renamed in his honor taking an active role in the Battle for Baltimore in Sept. 1814.

Source: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress; ‘Memoir of Leonard Covington’ by Benjamin Leonard Covington Wailes (Natchez Printing and Stationary Co., 1928): Marylanders Who Served the Nation, byGerson G. Eisenburg (Annapolis: Maryland State Archives, 1992).

Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 6:05 pm  Comments Off on Brig. General Leonard Covington (1768-1813)  

Lt. Colonel George Armistead, (1780-1818)

“The President promptly sent my promotion with a very handsome compliment. So you see me dear wife, all is well, at least your husband has got a name and standing that nothing but divine providence could have given him, and I pray to our Heavenly Father we may live long to enjoy.” Armistead to his wife Louisa Armistead, Sept. 1814.

George Armistead

George Armistead was born on April 10, 1780, in Caroline County, Virginia, to John and Lucinda (Baylor) Armistead, one of five brothers, three of whom later served in the War of 1812. Armistead enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1799, rising steadily through the ranks until March 3, 1813 when he received his majority and subsequently distinguished himself on May 18th while serving as an artillery officer at Fort Niagara, New York, in the capture of Fort George across the Niagara River in Upper Canada. He was accorded the honor of delivering the captured British flags to President Madison.

On his taking command of Fort McHenry in June 1813, Armistead requested a flag for his new garrison flag measuring 42’ x 30’, a standard size for the period. The flag and his victory over a British naval bombardment on Sept. 13-14, 1814 earned his enduring place in American history under that flag at Fort McHenry whose stalwart defense of Baltimore against the British attack in 1814 inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner. Armistead would remained in command of the fort until his untimely death at age 38 on April 25, 1818.

In 1810, then Captain Armistead married at the Otterbein Church, Baltimore, Louisa Hughes (1789-1861), daughter of Baltimore silversmith Christopher Hughes, Sr. Colonel Armistead is buried along with his wife and nephew Brig. Gen. Lewis Addison Armistead, CSA (1817-1863) in Old St. Paul’s Cemetery in Baltimore.

Source: Sheads, Scott S., Guardian of the Star-Spangled Banner: Lt. Col. George Armistead and The Fort McHenry Flag (Baltimore: Toomey Press, 1999)

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 9:43 pm  Comments Off on Lt. Colonel George Armistead, (1780-1818)